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Faculty & Staff Honors

Saint Louis Researchers Finding Better Ways to Screen for Food Insecurity

One in five households with children in the United States experience food insecurity – not having enough food each week or not knowing where the next meal will come from.

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[Pictured, from left, are Dr. Gene LaBarge, Dr. Ellen Barnidge, and Dr. Josh Arthur. Photo by Ms. Ellen Hutti.]

In 2015, three researchers from Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice surveyed caregivers of patients at Danis Pediatric Center–in inner-city primary care provider in St. Louis–to assess household food insecurity in the patient population. They found that 57 percent of caregivers had some level of household food insecurity, and that those caregivers who reported food insecurity also were more likely to report being uncomfortable talking with a doctor or nurse about their households’ food needs.

Now, Dr. Ellen Barnidge, an assistant professor in behavioral science and health education at Saint Lous, is working with Dr. Gene LaBarge and Dr. Josh Arthur, both assistant professors of pediatrics in the School of Medicine to look at solutions from both a pediatric physician and public health perspective.

Their project, “Food Insecurity Screening in Pediatric Clinical Settings: a Caregivers’ Perspective,” is supported by a micro-grant of $4945 from the Saint Louis University Health Sciences Collaborative Research Institute. The one-year grant, which runs through May 2017, is designed to encourage interdisciplinary research collaborations between faculty in public health, medicine, nursing, allied health professions, and social work.

“This grant will allow us to conduct interviews with patients’ caregivers to understand how we might develop a food insecurity screening process that takes into account the needs of caregivers,” said Dr. Barnidge. “For example, it is difficult to talk about a child in your care not having enough food to eat. How can we make that experience more comfortable?”

The ultimate goal is to help families that need food get it consistently.

“A clinic-to-community integration model is one that connects what happens in the clinic experience with resources that already exist in the community,” said Dr. Barnidge. “Given that many zip codes in St. Louis are designated as food deserts, connecting families with small children to food resources is not always easy.”

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